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December 26, 2001
After the drubbing at Mohali, I had called England a weak team. The inference was drawn from two factors; first, it was a team with little experience, and second, it had almost no bowling strength. The strongest sides that I have seen were those of Clive Lloyd's and Steve Waugh's, both of which possessed the bowling prowess to take 20 wickets in a Test.
Even though India won the Test series 1-0, the performance in the last two Tests should definitely be a wake-up call for the Indians. I did not see a clear-cut plan operating during the Test series, and it is about time that the Indian think-tank starts making plans without sacrificing the abundance of talent in its ranks.
Hussain's men dominated the Bangalore Test too; but for Sachin Tendulkar, India would have been in dire straits in the first innings. The weather in December is always a bit murky in Bangalore, and the unexpected rain only helped the pitch to improve as days went by.
The Indians, on their part, had erred in team selection at Ahmedabad and did so again at Bangalore. They should have played three spinners in the second Test and not in the third. Javagal Srinath had to put up a brilliant one-man show at Bangalore, having no support at all from the other end.
I am terribly disappointed by the way our spinners bowled at Bangalore. I must first congratulate Anil Kumble for getting his 300th Test wicket; he has served Indian cricket admirably. But I fail to understand why a bowler of Kumble's stature and experience allowed the pressure of that magic wicket to get to him.
Harbhajan Singh still has to work hard on his game. It is quite obvious that batsmen sort him out after watching him for 10 overs or so, and he becomes less effective after that. Unlike Muttiah Muralitharan, the young off-spinner does not turn the ball enough to have the batsmen constantly in doubt. More than the fact that he becomes predictable, Harbhajan relies much too heavily on the delivery that goes away from the bat. I have seen a little of young spinner Sarandeep Singh, and he looks a promising bowler who could do a lot better in the days ahead. He could find himself in a lot of trouble, though, if he does not change his chest-on action to side-on.
Ultimately, rain rescued India at Bangalore. I am forced to admit that Matthew Hoggard, Andrew Flintoff and Craig White gave some pointers on professionalism to the Indians, sticking to their task to achieve their goals. Even though these youngsters do not have the class of Brian Statham, John Snow, Bob Willis or Ian Botham, one never failed to notice the fact that they utilised their talent maximally.
Even though India won the Test series 1-0, the performance in the last two Tests should definitely be a wake-up call for the Indians. I did not see a clear-cut strategy operating during the Test series, and it is about time that the Indian think-tank starts making plans without sacrificing the abundance of talent in its ranks. One should learn from Hussain's professionals: plan according to your strengths.
Looking back at the Tests, I wonder what the result would have been for a five-Test series. I am sure that this Indian team would have been sweating it out in the Chennai Test, which always produces a good Test match.
I must again give full marks to Hussain, for whom my admiration shall not flag. Even though England lost the Test series, they proved that they are as good a side as India on Indian soil. Hussain has exposed a few chinks in the Indian armour and even taught the world a lesson of how to tackle the Indians on their home turf. This was not a series like that of last winter, when India got the better of Australia 2-1; but Test matches in India will never be the same again.
Hussain was born in India, and now he his using a blend of eastern wisdom and western professionalism to lead England through the road of recovery. Sourav Ganguly, on the other hand, has many things to sort out with his batting. I personally think he should start batting as an opener in Test matches; he is ideally suited for that position. The other option for him is to play lower down the order at number six, when the second new ball is due. Having said all this, I must make it very clear that Ganguly is the best captain we have.
I was impressed by Deep Dasgupta's batting, but his wicket-keeping has been a big let-down. He has to work hard on a few things. For instance, he does not watch the ball all the way into his gloves. I have seen enough of this lad at the National Cricket Academy, and I remember that he once asked me for advice. I told him, "To be a good wicket-keeper, you have to think like a batsman. You have to keep with supple wrists." It is to be hoped that Dasgupta polishes his skills behind the stumps to emerge as a quality wicket-keeper batsman for India in the future.
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